The UK ‘Gangnam Style’ is about very, very cheap fish

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A song about fish for a pound made Muhammad Shahid Nazir an English cult phenomenon when a passer-by filmed him singing it and put the clip on YouTube. His song became a bit hit – and the latest in a series of tracks that prove that massive success can come through video-sharing and streaming services.

Many Englishmen might already have heard the story: a random YouTube video, filmed by a complete stranger in the autumn 2012, loaded Muhammard Shadid Nazir directly onto the celebrity catapult and flung him – in near record time – from a life as an unknown fish monger in London’s East End into living rooms across England where people are now singing along to “The £1 Fish Song”.

From Pakistan to X-factor
Muhammad Shahid Nazir could hardly have imagined his present life as a child, living in Pattoki, a town near Lahore in Pakistan. Here he grew up on a steady diet of Bollywood musicals and traditional songs from the Punjab region.

He took the songs with him when he later emigrated to England. Here he settled in London’s East End, and found work at a local fishmonger’s, who asked him to find a way to lure customers to the store. No sooner said than done. Muhammad Shahid Nazir started out by shouting his prices at the top of his lungs, but so did everyone around him. So he came up with a song inspired by the music he heard as a child. It went:

Come on ladies, come on ladies
One pound fish
Have-a, garden-a look
One pound fish
Very, very good, very, very cheap
One pound fish
Six of five pounds one pound each

The song made him well known in the market where he worked, and a random passer-by decided to film Muhammad Shahid Nazir singing and put the clip on YouTube.

From there things changed fast.

The clip was a huge hit, which resulted in more and more people stopping by the market solely to film him singing. And in the fall of 2012, he suddenly found himself in front of the judges of the X-factor TV-show.

Despite the fact that he didn’t make the show, the massive, viral interest in “The £1 Fish Song” meant that he shortly after appearing before the judges signed a record deal with one of the world’s largest record companies – Warner Music.

Shortly before Christmas, Warner released a single with a dance version of the song. It has since reached 29th on the official British charts and number five on the UK Dance Chart. On YouTube the music video for the new version of the song was seen almost one million times during the first day.

2012 was YouTube’s Year of Music
Muhammad Shahid Nazir joins a group of musicians who during the past year underlines how cult status and / or wide popularity on YouTube can lead directly to a record deal or good sales figures.

No-one illustrated this better than the now world-famous South Korean rapper PSY, who during the past 12 months was here, there and everywhere with the song Gangnam Style and its iconic dance (in my eyes the dance still looks like an impression of a demented cowboy who has just been given a chili suppository) was the first video ever to receive one billion views on YouTube. Gangnam Style also climbed the charts all over the world, and has made PSY to a multi-millionaire.

The second most viewed video on YouTube is a music video with Canadian teenager Justin Bieber. Just Bieber is widely known as one of the first international superstars who first broke through on YouTube, and in 2012 he used the video sharing service to promote a single on a somewhat different way.

The pop star wrote to his fans that his personal computer, containing a number of private videos had been stolen. Later the thief of the computer mocked Bieber on Twitter, and warned that the personal videos would be leaked on YouTube on a given date.

When the day came, there a new video with Justin Bieber was actually released on YouTube. It turned out, however, that it was in fact a new official music video containing clips that just looked like private recordings (unless Bieber’s private life also contains a hell of a lot of people dancing in the background).

Record companies also seem to have woken up to the fact that the future music market is going to be as much about streaming (through services such as YouTube and Spotify) as about downloads (iTunes and similar services). CD’s are likely to go the same way as MySpace did, and vinyl will probably remain something that only DJ’s, old men wearing sweaters and people with young men with ironical moustaches, fixed gear bikes and jobs in Shoreditch buy.

Recently, Martin Mills from Beggars Group, home to artists such as Adele, Jack White and The XX, told The Guardian, 22 per cent of the companies 2012 earnings came from streaming.

Cooking Vinyl, with artists like The Prodigy, The Enemy and Ron Sexsmith , estimated that a record label on average earns about $6,000 for every million views a music video has on YouTube.

“We see a tremendous growth in our turnover every month,” Richard Leach, Digital Distribution Manager at Cooking Vinyl, said.

See Muhammad Shahid Nazir in action here:

And his new music video here:


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